When I dropped into Toronto Animal Services yesterday at noon, it was supposed to be just to say hello to Big George to see how he was doing but as I walked by the white board with the list of all the dogs that needed walking, I noticed that only half of them had been attended to.
The staff take out all the dogs in the morning for a quick washroom break but that's not a real walk, not in my book anymore. Five minutes doesn't cut it and the dogs really deserve and need the time they get with the volunteers walking them. Yesterday, though, the volunteer who was supposed to be there hadn't arrived yet.
I'm not at all putting any blame on the volunteer. After all who knows what might have happened. Sickness. Car broken down. Who knows, but regardless, the result was that half the dogs in the shelter had been stuck in their kennels all morning.
So, instead of spending time with George, I started taking out dogs. I do this quite often, fill in when someone's away or there's too many dogs, and it's never a big deal but yesterday, walking by all the dogs in their kennels who hadn't been out yet, I felt kind of depressed by it all. I think it may have been because one of the first dogs I passed was Spencer, a Doberman who reminded me of my own Rocky. Spencer was there by the front of his kennel, not making a peep but looking like he was trying very hard to be noticed with his perfectly well behaved sit. Something about his silence got to me. He was being a very good dog, not barking, not making a fuss, looking me in the eyes, doing all the right things so that I would choose him to take out.
And yet I did not.
And then I passed by Dalton ...
... and Sandy ...
... and Lady ...
... and Paddy ...
... and I get to the end of the kennel and take out two dogs who get along really well with each other to walk them at the same time - more efficient that way. And then I have to walk by all these other dogs again who are now thoroughly disappointed.
The photos I take for the adoption website all show the dogs outside, generally happy and alert and pretty full of life but in reality, they spend almost all their time here in their kennels waiting to be noticed, for that glance from a person, a touch, some attention, a few moments when they can feel wanted, included. Sure, it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, them missing out on a walk or missing out on some playtime, but denying them any of these few, small enough pleasures they get during their sometimes long stay at TAS just seems wrong.
It all comes down to this. TAS needs more volunteers. They've got a full schedule of volunteers and there is pretty well a volunteer coming in every open hour of every day but that's in the ideal case with no one being sick or late or whatever. And also, sometimes, there are more dogs than one volunteer can handle in the time they're there. So, I'm trying to talk TAS into doubling up their volunteer numbers or even tripling. This way, if someone can't make it, there'll hopefully still be at least one or two other people showing up.
Also, TAS South is getting more dogs now. The rescue work has really increased and that means more dogs to walk so more volunteers only makes sense. All the dogs need more people time.
So, for your consideration: If you've ever felt like getting hands-on involved and have thought about doing some volunteering, this would be a great time to do it. Come visit TAS South, check the place out, fill out a volunteer application form. They'll explain the volunteering process to you - sometimes they make a big deal of it but it's all pretty informal once you get started. Afterward, it's sometimes a little frustrating waiting for the bureaucracy to get to responding to the volunteer requests but I've been told that someone is going through all the applications right now. And even if you apply and don't make it this time, which would be nonsensical, TAS will have your name on file for the next round.
Hope to see you round there sometime.
Toronto Animal Services South, 7 days/week, 10:30 am - 6:30 pm
140 Princes' Blvd. (Horse Palace, Exhibition Place)
This is the south shelter number: 416 338 6668. If you call this number and get a machine, just hang up and try again later otherwise you might end up waiting on hold for a week or so.
This is the main TAS number if you're interested in one of the other shelters (but I don't know what they're like at all with respect to volunteers): 416 338 7297